The proper study of the development of English literature is the study of history of English literature. The study or reading of the history of English literature provides very essential information and knowledge of the canon of English literature and creates the clear picture of the century-wise growth of literature. We have already classified the periods of English literature in the article “Understanding Periods of English Literature| A Brief History of English Literature”, you can read this article for full understanding. 

There are hundreds of books and online material available in the market on history of English literature but it’s difficult to choose among such vast number of books and material for beginners or for those who want to study English literature. And hence we’ll discuss only a few books which are very useful for beginners and those who are studying for competitive exams like SET, NET, SLET, NTA, UPSC and others alike. Here our focus would be to review and list some useful books on the history of English literature, let’s divide the books in two parts:

A. Books/ Histories for the Beginners: 

1. English Literature: Its History and Significance for the Life of the English Speaking World by William J. Long:

Why do study this book? Following are the reasons:

1. The language is very simple and comprehensive.

2. Clear distinction of the periods for easy understanding.

3. An introductory chapter on English literature explaining its meaning and initial stages. 

4. Almost essential history is covered right from Old English Period to Twentieth Century Literature. 

5. There are pictures or images of important poets, authors, places and events which contribute to our comprehension. Basically we love to watch images. 

6. In the beginning of the chapter, socio-political history and background is provided. The life of author or poet and his/ her literary career fully illustrated.

7. At the end of the chapter the chart of chronology of major literary and historical events and authors has been provided which is useful to compare and analyse that period. At the end of chapter, we also find summary of the age or period.  

8. Selections for reading, catagorised bibliography and suggestive questions at the end of each chapter are noteworthy for further investigation. 

Its price is around Rs.350/- for actual price, images, ratings and more details click on the following blue link: 

Here you can purchase the history of ENGLISH LITERATURE BY WILLIAM J LONG


2. History of English Literature by Edward Albert: following are the salient features:  

1. The language is lucid and easy to understand.

2. He elaborately divided history into fourteen periods and the same number of chapters are there in the book. 

3. The structure of chapters is compact in the form of points which is better for understanding.

4. Salient features of each period are provided and based on that we can compare among the periods and literature. 

5. The literary forms are presented with separate entries, e.g. poetry, prose, drama, novel, etc.

6. The detailed description of significant poets and authors with their life, background and features of their writing or literature is provided and distinction is made between major writers and minor writers on the basis of their literary contribution. 

7. In the beginning of the chapter, time-chart of chief authors; and at the end, the illustrative table of development of literary forms of that period are provided. 

There is some difference between Long’s history and Albert’s history, read both histories to know the difference. 

Its price is around Rs.350/- for actual price, images, ratings and more details click on the following blue link: 

Here you can purchase the HISTORY OF ENGLISH LITERATURE BY EDWARD ALBERT


3. History of English Literature, Volume I: A Survey of English Literature from Beginning to the Seventeenth Century and Volume II: Romantic, Victorian and Modern Age by W.R. Goodman: features of this volumes are: 

1. The language is simple and grasping; the flow of the sentences is comprehensive and smooth for reading.

2. An introductory chapter on literature, its definition, function, nature and scope is given which is a better beginning of the history of English literature.

3. It’s the very extensive history compared to the above histories of Long and Albert. It covers almost aspects of literature: its form, features, poets, authors, language, style, etc. in detail. 

4. The content section is very elaborative, reading of it clears the picture of complete typology and chronology of poets, authors, events and literary works.

5. Goodman uses numbered points to explain everything which is another benefit for readers to understand and keep in memory major or significant points easily. 

6. At the end of each section, we get synopsis of that section as we have summary in Long’s history.

7. This history is known for the detailed classification of literary forms, poets, authors and their individual works. This is more detailed history compared to the above two histories. 


4. History of English Literature with Social Background: Chaucer to Present Day (Complete Volume) by Dr. Raghukul Tilak:

This is the similar history as Goodman. We find the same kind of content and features as Goodman’s volumes have. 

Its price is around Rs.350/- for actual price, images, ratings and more details click on the following blue link: 

Here you can purchase the HISTORY OF ENGLISH LITERATURE WITH SOCIAL BACKGROUND: CHAUCER TO PRESENT DAY (COMPLETE VOLUME) BY DR. RAGHUKUL TILAK


5. An Outline History of English Literature by William Henry Hudson:

This is one of the worth buying history of English literature for beginners. Its language is very lucid and simple. Hudson present history as a whole and a picture of major events are created before the readers. Its price is around Rs.150/- for actual price, images, ratings and more details click on the following blue link:

Here you can purchase the AN OUTLINE HISTORY OF ENGLISH LITERATURE BY WILLIAM HENRY HUDSON


B. Histories for Advanced Learners (PG Students, Researchers, Teachers, Authors, etc.): 

6. The Short Oxford History of English Literature by Andrew Sanders: Key Features: 

1. Though its title is short oxford history, it’s an extensive and elaborate history of English literature. 

2. The language of composition is critical and complex generating a point of view most essential to analyse the literature. 

3. An introductory chapter is devoted to the development of the canon of English literature.

4. Sanders uses direct language to reveal the author or poet and literary works.

5. Essay type passages are composed all over the book without any numbered or specific points.

6. It presents the critical view on the work of a poet or an author and compares it on different levels.

7. At the end of all chapters or periods, an extensive chronology of events and literary works from the beginning to the twentieth century is provided which is very useful. We can directly go to the chronology and man or place the event or literary work. 

Its price is around Rs.495/- for actual price, images, ratings and more details click on the following blue link:

Here you can purchase THE SHORT OXFORD HISTORY OF ENGLISH LITERATURE BY ANDREW SANDERS

 

7. A Critical History of English Literature (Volume I to IV) by David Daiches: key features:

1. As its title suggests, it’s a critical history.

2. The language of composition is critical and complex generating a point of view most essential to analyse the literature. 

3. Direct passages introduce the poets and authors and their literature. No points or bullets. 

4. Illustrative comparison is made among poets, authors, their literary works, periods, socio-political conditions, its impact, etc. 

5. We find complete dissection and critical analysis of the works of major poets and authors, e.g. William Shakespeare, John Milton, William Wordsworth, S.T. Coleridge, etc.  

6. The parts of the original poems and lines of passages and different literary opinions are used to explain various facets of literary works.   

Its price is around Rs.695/- (4 volumes, you can purchase single volume too) for actual price, images, ratings and more details click on the following blue link:

Here you can purchase A CRITICAL HISTORY OF ENGLISH LITERATURE (VOLUME I TO IV) BY DAVID DAICHES


Some Other Histories:

1. The Oxford Illustrated History of English Literature by Pat Rogers: (colleges, public libraries must have):

Its price is around Rs.9000/- for actual price, images, ratings and more details click on the following blue link:

Here you can purchase THE OXFORD ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF ENGLISH LITERATURE BY PAT ROGERS


2. A History of English Literature by Michael Alexander: (colleges, public libraries must have):

Its price is around Rs.1600/- for actual price, images, ratings and more details click on the following blue link:

Here you can purchase A HISTORY OF ENGLISH LITERATURE BY MICHAEL ALEXANDER


Apart from these histories, there are many other which can read and study but the above explained are very basic and any student begin literature with these basic books. 


Author: Datta G Sawant